What Is a Pie Bird and Why Do You Need One?
Get back to the basics of pie baking with this old-school tool.
Lately it seems the internet is full of articles beating you over the head about things you are doing wrong in your life: cutting watermelons all wrong, wearing bobby pins all wrong, and, get this–you've been cutting your layer cakes all wrong. Sorry, but I need to add one more item to that list, and it is possibly the most important one of all: you may be venting your pies all wrong. Ever heard of a pie bird? Let me tell you what it is and how it will radically change your life (or at least your pie baking).
A pie bird is a hollow ceramic tool that is placed in the center of pies to prevent bubbling over. They are also called pie funnels, pie whistles, or pie vents, because that hollow core allows steam to escape during baking. Pie birds, used with both meat and fruit pies, also provide support for the top crust, keeping it from drooping in the middle.
WATCH: 4 Creative Ways To Crimp A Pie Crust
Historians argue as to when pie birds, which originated in Europe, came into use – whether as early as the 1500's or later, during Victorian times. This tool grew more popular in the 1940s when manufacturers started producing them in varying colors and whimsical shapes. Over the years, they fell out of favor when bakers opted to just cut vents in their pastry rather than use a pie bird, but hard-core pie bakers still claim that using a pie bird creates absolutely the best crust.
Using a pie bird is very simple and doesn't add any more time to your baking process. Here is what you do:
Prep the Recipe
Following the instructions of your recipe, prepare the pie filling and the pie dough. You may need to par-bake (or blind bake) the bottom layer of pie crust.
Place the Pie Bird
Once the bottom crust is ready, place the pie bird right in the middle of the pie plate and spoon the pie filling around the bird.
Add the Top Crust
Roll out the top layer of pastry dough, cut an X in the center of the dough, and carefully cover the pie, allowing the pie bird to poke through the X. Press the flaps of the X around the base of the bird.
Bake and Enjoy
Bake according to recipe instructions. You don't need to remove the pie bird after baking; you can cut and serve around it.
Want your own pie bird? There is a fun selection of pie birds and pie funnels (they aren't all birds!) on amazon.com. Scour your local antique stores, search Ebay, or spend an hour or so in your grandmother's pantry. Chances are you will find a cute pie bird, waiting for a chance to be put back into service.